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Considered the first full-length detective story in the English language, T.S. Eliot described The Moonstone as 'the first and greatest English detective novel'.
The stone of the title is an enormous yellow diamond plundered from an Indian shrine after the Siege of Seringapatam. Given to Miss Verinder on her 18th birthday, it mysteriously disappears that very night. Suspicion falls on three Indian jugglers who have been seen in the neighbourhood. Sergeant Cuff is assigned to the case and though it looks simple nothing can be taken for granted.
The story is recounted by several narrators including the bemused butler, the love-sick housemaid, the enigmatic detective Sergeant Cuff and the drug-addicted scientist, who in turn, speculate on the mystery.
This enthralling tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired the detective genre. In a sense, Collins wrote the rulebook on detective stories as many features of The Moonstone have become conventions in the literature of others.
Charles Dickens was a close friend and mentor of Collins, and the two collaborated together on drama and fiction. The Moonstone, as well as some of his other work, was first published in Dickens' journals.
Beginning his career on stage, Peter Jeffrey became a recognisable face on British television while enjoying thirty years with the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as working with all the other great British theatre companies. He was soon in demand for television character parts, playing roles in shows such as The Saint (1964-1965), The Avengers (1966-1968) and Doctor Who (1967 and 1978) as well as being involved in many BBC Radio 4 audio dramas such as The Pickwick Papers. Though a versatile actor, he was often cast in roles of authority such as Inspector Carter in Dixon of Dock Green (1966) but occasionally guest starred in comedy roles such as "Napper" Wainwright in Porridge (1975). He continued to act during his final years, with roles in the BBC adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper (1996), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1999) and Where the Heart Is (1999).